Beyond the PDF2 (#btpdf2) challenges status quo of #ScholarlyCommunication

FORCE 11's interactive event brings together students and experts to seek better ways to share scientific information

The Authors

Inez van Korlaar, PhD

Colby Riese

As Director of Project Management for STM Journals Marketing at Elsevier, Dr. Inez van Korlaar (@InezvKorlaar) is responsible for the global marketing communication projects for the STM journals department. Inez holds a PhD in Health Psychology and is based in Amsterdam.

As Project Manager for STM Journals Marketing Communications at Elsevier, Colby Riese develops outreach projects for early career researchers and for the company’s Content Innovation group. She is based in Amsterdam.

Here they write about their own experience, summarizing the sessions and high points.


FORCE 11's Beyond the PDF2 conference, which just concluded in Amsterdam, lived up to its reputation as an unconference.With 210 attendees, it had some expected elements, like name badges, speakers and presentations. But what differed was the energy, the intimate atmosphere, the interesting mix of participants and how engaged they were with each other and the presenters. And you didn’t even have to be there to take part; there were more than 600 participants on Twitter.

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Scholarships for Students

Of the 210 attendees, 33 were students whose travel was sponsored by Elsevier or the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.[/note]

A highly active Twitter feed , an Elsevier-sponsored live-stream video and an open “Manifesto” on Google docs ensured virtual participation and kept the event open to anyone with an internet connection.

This – along with the information, experience, best practices and new ideas that permeated the two-day event — are what made the event so engaging.

The first day started with a keynote presentation by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@Kfitz), Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association. She took a look at a few recent experiments in digital scholarship, and expressed that the most significant obstacles to a truly online future of scholarly communication lie more in the conservative nature of academic institutions and academics rather than in technological possibilities.

The day continued with sessions about new models of content creation and content dissemination, in which presenters ranging from academics to techies to publishers provoked discussion among participants.

The last session of the day was organized by the unlikely duo of Cameron Neylon (@CameronNeylon), Advocacy Director for PLOS (the Public Library of Science) and Anita de Waard (@anitadewaard), Disruptive Technologies Director for Elsevier,discussing a very topical issue: the business models of scholarly publication.

One theme that continued throughout Day 2 was data. The gamut ran from data creation, transfer, re-use and curation to reproducibility and sustainability.The keynote presentation was given by Dr. Carol Tenopir, Chancellor's Professor, School of Information Sciences Director of Research, and Director of the Center for Information & Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She said the vast majority of researchers are interested and willing to share and re-use data but were hit with barriers and conditions such as insufficient time, lack of funding and no place to put data.

The Making it Happen session was geared towards taking stock of initiatives that needed to be moved forward. It began with three talks focused on semantic evaluation, the consideration of usability in knowledge communication and data review and management. With this background, attendees commented on 10 flash presentations of five minutes each that followed in which tools, technologies and frameworks were introduced.

 A role play session on a serious topic: finding new models of evaluation for research and researchers

A role play session on a serious topic: finding new models of evaluation for research and researchers (Photo by Paul Groth)

After lunch, the BeyondthePDF2 organizers kept us fully engaged with a role play session on a serious topic: finding new models of evaluation for research and researchers.

One theme that pervaded was the need for researchers to be evaluated with a model that recognized broader communication instruments besides metrics and articles. As it stands, those doing the evaluation need to have a better understanding of what metrics mean, what they are and where they are useful.

Finally, in the Visions for the Future session, the ideas of 14 presenters were judged by a panel of four, who considered how new their idea was, its scope and how easy it would be to implement. Presenters were also judged by audience and a Tweet vote. There were many practical ideas on how to make research workflows, evaluations and collaborations easier. The discovering of data and its curation and the release of research output in both form and function rounded out the session.

Seeing these approaches to the concerns of the scholarly community and what could be done to improve them was one of the goals of the BeyondthePdf2 conference.

Two artists created an ongoing mural that summed up the topics covered over the two days Two artists from De Jongens van de Tekeningen (The Boys of the Drawings) created an ongoing mural that summed up the topics covered over the two days (Photo by Paul Groth)

One unexpected “session” that wasn’t listed in the program held participants’ attention throughout the two days. Broadcast on a screen, the Twitter wall with play-by-play action became a session in itself. Jumping from presentations to Twitter and back, both virtual and physical attendees were engaged in conversations, providing the best “sound bites,” summaries and discussion topics from the event.

With the event hashtag #btpdf2, 625 participants sent 3,504 tweets. If you could tear your eyes away from the Twitter wall, on the other side of the room you were treated to a screen reflecting the ongoing work of two artists from De Jongens van de Tekeningen, who created a fantastic mural that summed up the topics covered over the two days.

Having been asked if they would they want another conference and did they make at least one new contact, the audience (still full at end of Day 2 ) resoundingly said yes. Those we spoke with, including the Elsevier attendees, said they learned something they could incorporate in their work – already a step forward in advancing scholarly communication.[divider]

Learn more

  • For background on the conference and the FORCE 11 organization (the Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship), visit the Force 11 website.
  • Archived video, twitter feed , presentations, photo of the mural and a time lapse video of its creation to be posted shortly on the Force 11 website.
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